Social Issues

People with disabilities worst-hit by COVID-19 pandemic: UN

United Nations, May 6 (efe-epa).- The United Nations said Wednesday that the one billion people with disabilities around the world are among the worst affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and urged governments to establish the necessary measures to carry out an inclusive response to COVID-19.

“People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and they experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse. The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities — and producing new threats,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a message on the occasion of the launch of a UN report called “A Disability-Inclusive Response To COVID-19.”

The UN chief said that people with disabilities were among the worst-affected by the disease and also faced “a lack of accessible public health information, significant barriers to implement basic hygiene measures, and inaccessible health facilities.”

As evidence of the precarious situation of the disabled in the ongoing pandemic, Guterres pointed out that the number of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes varied from 19 percent in some countries to an “astonishing” 72 percent in others.

“In some countries, healthcare rationing decisions are based on discriminatory criteria, such as age or assumptions about quality or value of life, based on disability. We cannot let this continue,” the Portuguese diplomat added. “We must guarantee the equal rights of people with disabilities to access healthcare and lifesaving procedures during the pandemic.”

Guterres also touched upon the fact that this section of the population was already facing exclusion in employment before the crisis and hence was more likely to lose their jobs in the current scenario.

In addition, only 28 percent of people with disabilities have access to benefits, which in the case of low-income countries is further reduced to 1 percent.

The UN secretary-general also stressed the increased risk of domestic violence faced by women and girls with disabilities during the epidemic.

“I urge governments to place people with disabilities at the center of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and to consult and engage people with disabilities,” Guterres said.

“When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we are investing in our common future,” he added.

The report titled “A Disability-Inclusive Response To COVID-19” indicates that 15 percent of the global population has a disability and that 80 percent of people with disabilities live in developing countries.

Moreover, 46 percent of people aged 60 years and above have a disability and that one in every five women is likely to experience disability during her life.

Among its recommendations to countries, the UN calls for an expansion of community support for people with diabilities citing as examples, Argentina, Peru, Spain, among other countries, where persons who provide support to people with disabilities are exempted from restrictions of movement and physical distancing implemented due to the pandemic.

It also proposes reducing the number of people with disabilities within institutions and in prisons “whenever possible,” to ensure that distance learning is accessible to students with disabilities and to provide support services to women and girls with disabilities facing domestic violence. EFE-EPA


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